How to Blend in at the Pub

Now, let’s get one thing straight from the very start of this post. I really don’t mind if you look like a tourist in a pub here in my adopted country. I’ve travelled a lot and I know I stuck out like a sore thumb lots of times. Doesn’t bother me very much at all.

But let’s say you’re visiting Ireland and just want to blend in. Here are a few tips.

Keep in mind these are my observations from three years of people watching in pubs here in Dublin. There will be exceptions to my little rules, so if you think I missed something, share away!

What to order: If you’re up for Guinness, you can say to the barman, “I’ll have a pint.” It’s like basic currency in this country – no need to specify which kind! They’ll assume you want Guinness. If you’re a woman and worried you might not make it through a whole Guinness, ask for a half-pint. It’s ladylike and a bit old school.

If Guinness, large or small, isn’t your thing, try ordering Bulmer’s, a sparkly sweet cider drink that’s popular among locals as well. It comes in pint or half-pint bottles with a glass of ice, and Bulmer’s also comes in pear or berry flavors if you want to try something a little different.

You can order soda or water, but if you’re trying to avoid alcoholic beverages, try ordering a blackcurrant and water. It’s a sweet pinky-purple concentrate mixed with water and quite yummy! I find it hard to describe the taste – I think it’s different to anything we have in America.

What to wear: First, leave your North Face at home. It’s a a pretty sure giveaway that you’re American. While I have seen Irish people wear North Face, it’s still uncommon. Second, if you’re a lad, avoid pairing your jeans with sneakers (called runners here). Try a dress shoe or even a hiking boot. If you’re a lady, think city casual, unless you’re headed out to a club after the pub, in which case all bets are off. The shorter the skirt, the higher the heels, I’ve seen it all. But if it’s just a few drinks at the local, stick with skinny jeans and a belted blouse.

A few don’t’s: Don’t ask for a drinks menu. And don’t hope for fancy drinks with fussy names. Stick with the basics.

If you order a Guinness, don’t start swigging from it without letting the head settle. The head is that white part at the top, and the bubbles will rise to the top after a few minutes.

Keep an eye out: People watching is fantastic in pubs. Watch for older couples sitting side by side watching the goings on. The men will often order a pint and a whiskey, and the women order petite little glasses of sherry. It’s beyond cute.

If you go out in a group with a bunch of Irish people, watch for your companions buying rounds. It’s common here for people to buy a round for the group, then the next round is on the next person. Whatever your opinion on rounds (they can mean you drink way more than you’d choose to with so much peer pressure!), it’s at least helpful to see them coming and know what you’re in for!

One last note – none of this advice applies to pubs in the city centre and especially in tourist spots in Temple Bar. In those pubs, you’re often lucky if the staff are Irish, let alone the customers, so order fuzzy navels and wear your North Face with sneakers all you want. But these suggestions should help you do a little stealthy people watching on the outskirts of the city centre or in locals around the country.

Sláinte! (Which is how to say cheers in Irish, and pronounced slan-cha. There, now that’s really the end of my tips!)

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23 comments on How to Blend in at the Pub

  1. Lynn Caldwell says:

    And… don’t leave at 9.30! Most Irish just arriving at that point.

  2. Kristin says:

    Another tip for what to order when you want to slow down your drinking pace is a shandy – lemonade mixed with beer. It will still look just like a beer in your pint glass, so no one even needs to know if you’re finding it hard to keep up! :)

  3. charm says:

    and if an Irishman tells you to order a jimmy n red – ONLY DRINK ONE!

  4. Are there any particular rules for ordering Irish whiskey? I always take my whiskey neat, but is that the default? And if I don’t specify, do they reach for Jamesons?

  5. Joslyn says:

    I studied abroad in Dublin in the fall of 2009 and I would have to say that you hit all of the points! Bulmers is my favorite! Also I didn’t even really know what North Face was until I saw most of my fellow American classmates wearing it all the time.

  6. Kristina says:

    Lovely post! If I ever make it to Ireland, I will for sure remember! :)

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  8. Liam says:

    Hi Emily
    Great tips and all so true. I always get found out as the returning Irish boy, when my American wife orders something fancy. Like you say, in Temple Bar that’s fine, but a small little country pub in Cork run by a 75 year old isn’t going to know how to whisk up a White Russian :)

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  10. Leah Travels says:

    Thanks for all the great advice. I’ll be in Ireland in a couple of weeks. I can’t wait to try Bulmer’s. I love cider!

  11. Bob says:

    a. Careful which whiskey you order depending on which county you’re in.

    b. It is not unusual to have a pint or three lined up in front of you, what with all the round buying and all.

    And it is not the problem that it used be, but haircuts and high school class rings could be a problem back in the day, easily confused with jobs and certain other professions……

  12. mary Purdy says:

    do they serve wine in the pubs,I am not a beer drinker,but I like a nice
    glass of Zinfidel.Going to Ireland in June what else should I know about the behavior I should put forth.

    • emily says:

      Hi Mary! Yes, they do serve wine in pubs – thank goodness! ;) I’m not a beer drinker either, so if you ask for red or white wine, they’ll tell you which kinds they have. Their selection is typically a more limited than restaurants or fancier bars, but they always have three or four different red and white wines. Feel free to email me if you have more questions! Happy to help!

  13. Dave says:

    Hi Emily, my question is similar to Mary’s regarding wine in the pubs. My wife always drinks chardonnay. Will we be considered stuffy asking for that in small town pubs?

    • emily says:

      Hi Dave! Thanks for your question. It’s not too stuffy at all to ask for wine. Twenty years ago, probably, but not now. My husband’s trick is to always ask for either red or white wine generically, at which point the bartender will ask which kind and show you the selection of little bottles to choose from. Asking that way is a little less fussy. Hope that helps! Feel free to email me if you have more questions!

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  15. Bonnie says:

    Hi Emily and friends, I will be visiting Ireland from Feb. 26 to March 6th. So excited about this trip. Starting in Belfast for a work conference and then on to Dublin. How do you recommend traveling? Was thinking by train. I have not booked a train in Europe. It would be Belfast-Dublin city Center. The hotel we chose in Dublin is the Brooks. It does not look too far from Temple Bar. Do you know about how far. Is it walking distance and if not is there a bus or public transportation? Any info you can provide is very much appreciated! Thanks everyone:)

    • emily says:

      Hi Bonnie, traveling by train to Dublin from Belfast is a good option. Your hotel is really centrally located so you should be able to walk to Temple Bar in about 7 minutes!

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  17. Old Guy says:

    Some spot-on tips here, Emily. One little nitpick: If you order a “half pint”, that’s the same as saying, “I’m a tourist.” However, if you order a “glass”, you’ll get your small Guinness and you will blend right in – as long as you’re a lady. Lads who order a glass are subject to ridicule.

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